How would the LCMS today respond to a “Luther”?

Luther at Worms

I have heard many people over the past decade wonder about a “Luther” for the LCMS.  I don’t think it would go very well.  Such a man with similar criticisms would not be received well by the LCMS at large – in fact, he would probably be received in a way similar to the way Rome greeted Dr. Luther.  As I have pondered this, I have come up with these varied responses.  The list is probably not complete, nor fully thought through, but I post it here as a “think piece”.

Get More Involved Response

Some thought Luther’s harsh critique was the result of just not knowing enough about the situation, so they invited him into the mess.  So someone who criticizes the LCMS may be offered to be “enlightened” by those in power.  This tactic works in many ways because it takes the vocal opponents and silences them by offering them “influence” and “power” which plays into ego and pride.  It brings them into some sort of “brotherhood” (everyone likes to be liked).  The reality is that over time these critics become cheerleaders because they are personally invested in the institution.

Ignore Response

Rome tried to ignore Dr. Luther’s critiques (he was, after all, just a monk teaching at a relatively new university).  The printing press made this response impossible.  In the same fashion, people should realize the Synodical backlash against the criticism found on the internet (blogs, podcasts, etc.) looks eerily similar.

Institutional Response

This response was the effort through the Augustinian order to silence Luther.  Then it grew into the bureaucracy of Rome investigating and trying to silence Luther with court trials and procedure.  This also involved official and unofficial efforts to disown Luther at official levels.  In the same way, the LCMS would use this response in denying positions to a critic or using the official institutions to overwhelm the critics.  This would also be the root of many efforts to encourage critics to use “procedure” in lodging their complaint (insert the institutional use of “Mt 18” and “the 8th Commandment” here).

Anti-Luther Propaganda

Political Response

Princes were pressured to act on Luther. Bishops and other authorities were also called upon.  Attempts were made to discredit him and paint him as a deviant.  So also the category of “electability” in the LCMS is created and sustained to maintain this political response to critics.  This is also where complaints about “tone” would fit into the picture.  Obviously, the “tone” complaint is useful in any one of these responses as a shut-down tactic.  Also useful in this response are tools that would paint the critic as insane or just too radical, impatient, or overzealous.  Character assassination is key here.

Eck vs. Luther

 

Theological Response

Theologians tried to respond to Luther and often mischaracterized his complaints.  This included court theologians being used as tools of a Political Response or Institutional Response.  Other theologians felt the need to take up the task as well, citing the political and institutional authorities in their refutations.  This was the most genuinely godly of the responses to the critic, to engage the substance of the theology of Luther.

 

 

Edict of Worms

Physical Threat Response

Finally, Luther was put under a death sentence.  This is a little different today, but it would look a lot like threatening a “Luther” with loss of income, house, home, etc.  The LCMS does not have the power of the sword and thus the sword they use will likely only break the fifth commandment by doing harm to the neighbor’s body through the refusal to provide daily bread.

 

 

 

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.

Comments

How would the LCMS today respond to a “Luther”? — 6 Comments

  1. I have seen the use of “Mt 18” and the “8th Commandment” used by pastors and other church leaders to stop any kind of questioning regarding the abuse of their power.

  2. I have absolutely zero doubt that today’s LCMS would not have welcomed Luther, Walther, or Pieper. These men would be simply appalled at what goes by the name Lutheran in our Synod. For bring up their concerns they would have been subject to all of the methods noted above. They would have been seen as nothing but “Boat-rockers”, schismatics, divisive black snakes in the bedroom that need to be thrown out of the house. These fabulous theologians would have been labeled disturbers of the peace for messing with the Synodical “Happy Face”.

  3. From all the Luther said, I dont think he’d be very happy with much of it, not even mentioning what Jesus would say.

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